Saturday, March 16, 2013
Abe Says Japan Must Push For More Open Economy
TOKYO (Nikkei)--Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that Japan will join the 11-country negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Abe framed his decision to pursue greater openness through a U.S.-led free trade initiative as a bid for growth and a now-or-never opportunity to write new rules for a global economy.
"Now is our last chance," he told a news conference.
Japan's entry into the talks could become official as early as June. The U.S., Australia and three other countries have yet to give their consent.
The next scheduled TPP meeting will be held this May in Peru. Members are considering gathering again in July, and Japan may be able to join at that point, according to the government.
For now, it will press ahead with preliminary talks. A key issue for the U.S. and other trading partners is autos. The U.S. has tentatively agreed to a long grace period for eliminating automobile tariffs. But a number of other sticking points remain, including harmonizing safety standards.
On agricultural products, Japan will likely face pressure to drop tariffs from Australia, New Zealand and others even before joining the official negotiations. In response, Abe's government will seek to outline the "sensitivities" -- that is, sacred cows -- described in a joint statement with the U.S. It will also work on measures for boosting domestic farm productivity. By one estimate, Japanese agricultural output could drop as much as 3 trillion yen as a result of the TPP.
Abe expressed determination to uphold the ground rules identified by his Liberal Democratic Party.
At his own news conference, Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi vowed to make every effort to secure exemptions from tariff cuts for the LDP's five agricultural priorities: rice, sugar, wheat, dairy products, and beef and pork.
(The Nikkei, March 16 morning edition)